Scots cartoonists are concentrting on the future. Stephen McGinty finds out what they have in common.

THE man who manipulates Judge Dredd through the columns of the Daily Star and who springs a futuristic Russian thief on the readers of 2000 AD is propped at the bar, chugging down a beer and talking about his difficulty with Death. It seems no one wants to fund a 40-inute TV play about the four horseman of the Apocalypse living in Greenock. The author of The Life of Death, Robbie Morrison, explains: ``They turned up to announce The End and nobody believed them - it was the 70s, everyone was wearing stack heels and long hair, they fitted in too well.''

Richard Wilson, the star of One Foot in the Grave, has agreed to put in another foot and so, play dead. ``You can imagine him with the hood and the scythe. He'd be brilliant. But nobody can find a slot for it. It's really annoying.'' He takes another sip. ``Today comics are restricted. It's superheroes, sci-fi or that's it. I want to try and find a wider audience.'' Judge Dredd now nods his head in agreement. Colin McNeil, who drew Dredd long before Sylvester Stallone wore the big-screen Versace costume, is scunnered.

``Yeah, I can't be a**** anymore!''

Welcome to SCCAM. A hellfire club of comic writers, artists, animators, retailers and convention organisers tucked monthly in the basement bar of Blackfriars Pub in Bell Street, Glasgow. While some Scottish Cartoonist and Comic Artist Members are fiddling while Rome burns, others are intent on building a new republic. Founding members Tommy Summerville and Ranald MacColl have no doubt that comics will always continue and that Scotland's skill on the printed page has yet to be recognised.

While The Doors drift from the PA system, 50 or 60 members sit around trading tales under the watchful eyes of a gallery of framed prints. Outside the toilet hangs a work by Record cartoonist Malkie McCormick: in front of portraits of their recalcitrant brood, Philip stands beside the Queen as she sighs: ``See weans . . .''; The Bogie Man, John Wagner and Alan Grant's escaped Scots loonie, Mr Cloonie, is printed on the wall, elsewhere She-Hulk sulks since Captain America's got a bigger bust.

On TV monitors the BBC's film of the visit by Will Eisner plays. Eisner, the American comic genius behind the Spirit character - an image of him in cotton shirt and kilt stands on stage - is SCCAM's honorary president. His May visit was welcomed by a Claymore salute from the Clan Wallace and the presentation of an authentic See You Jimmy hat which Eisner wore all night. ``He's a brilliant guy,'' said Summerville. It is hoped Eisner will attend next year's debut Scottish Comic Festival.

At the moment the Scottish International Festival of Cartoon and Comic Art exists in sketch form, with the lines thickening and more colour being added with each passing month. In a bid to create an annual festival to compare with San Diego in America and Angouleme in France, SCCAM has joined forces with Stirling Council, representatives of which travelled to France to see how it's done. ``We're looking at organising a four-day festival for all the family.''

A theme will be the Auld Alliance with the organisers of Angouleme bringing a slice of the festival to Stirling. Other plans include a historic comic exhibition based at the castle, a major Scottish retrospective of characters such as the Bash Street Kids, etc, and a series of workshops. ``The Wallace Clan are working on the historical research for a factual comic on the life of William Wallace. We want people who visit to be able to walk away with a little piece of history,'' says Summerville.

Before the festival, which it is hoped will take place next autumn, there's the opportunity to display Scottish life in words and pictures to the people of Croatia. A similar Comic Artists Organisation in the country has approached the group to send an exhibition early next year. It was clear they wanted images to represent Scotland. ``They told us they didn't want superhero art-work, so it's a great opportunity to highlight Scottish talent and the country,'' said Ranald MacColl.

Cinders McLeod, a regular cartoon contributor to The Herald, arrived carrying Anya, her two-month-old daughter. She regularly travels from her home in Bute. ``Cartoonists sit on their own all day, so it's great to socialise, have a laugh, get drunk.'' It was her father, a closet cartoonist, who inspired her. ``He used to draw cartoons on the napkins in restaurants, then hide them. I felt sad he never followed it.''

Dave Alexander, a former contributor to Electric Soup, is happy to be working as the unofficial club artist for Greenock Morton and sad that he still hasn't found a sponsor for his next gripping instalment of The MacBam Clan. ``It's the unknown part the MacBam clan played in Bonnie Prince Charlie's uprising. I'm going to have to find some daft b****** to cough up #3000 to put it out.'' Any offers?

It's a little too steep for Gafin Austin, who works at Dead Head Comics in Edinburgh, and besides all the money he'll raise at his Comic and Fantasy Fair at Edinburgh's Roxburghe Hotel next weekend will go to Leukemia and Cancer Research. One event will be the completion of an entire comic in two days drawn, pardon the pun, from the collective talent of the attendees.

The reason for Scotland remaining a reservoir of talent - from Cam Kennedy working for Lucasfilms on Star Wars comics from the islands of Orkney to Alan Grant scripting Batman, through Grant Morrison and Mark Miller - is, in Gafin's opinion, a matter of heart. ``In Scotland they believe they can do it.''

Gary Erskine is proof. Nine months after he left Forbidden Planet as a shop assistant, he returned to star in a signing session, now a popular artist on comic titles such as The Mask, Terminator, Punisher and Wolverine. Sitting at the back of the bar he puts his finger on a cause for success. ``Gatherings like this help to nurture talent. Just look at all the pics on the wall - the talent is out there.''